Boston Herald columnist Michael Silverman wrote a powerful column this week that it’s time for Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco.
This is hitting home in Boston right now because former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who helped the Sox win two World Series, recently revealed that he is battling a serious form of oral cancer — cancer he blames on his 30-year chewing habit. Schilling’s cancer and Tony Gwynn’s (another chewer) death this summer from salivary gland cancer have put chewing tobacco in baseball front and centre.
Schilling actually did quit chew for a while, but after a year-and-a-half the power of nicotine won and he started dipping again. From Silverman’s column:
“None of it [lectures] was enough to ever make me quit,’’ Schilling said. “The pain that I was in going through this treatment, the second or third day, it was the only thing in my life that I wish I could go back and never have dipped.”
Actually, MLB does want to ban chewing tobacco. Cigarettes are banned in the clubhouse and dugouts. Chew is banned (on the field, mind you) in minor league baseball and in college, but MLB can’t ban it because the Player’s Association won’t allow it.
If only the players and Major League Baseball could see that they are dead wrong when it comes to how they rationalize and allow the use of smokeless tobacco rather than eliminating the addictive and cancer-causing substance.
Anyone who heard the higher timbre in the 47-year-old voice of Curt Schilling on WEEI radio and on NESN for the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon as he spoke for the first time about his battle with mouth cancer yesterday, or anyone still grieving the loss of 54-year-old Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn in June to a similar cancer, received a chilling reminder that, incredibly, tobacco still has a place in baseball.
Silverman further writes:
Schilling didn’t need an ashtray at Fenway when he played since smoking tobacco had long been banned.
But chewing tobacco?
Oh no, you must understand: That’s totally different. Smoking tobacco’s bad. Chewing the stuff? Well, players in Schilling’s era and players in today’s game can chew all they want. Just don’t let anyone see the telltale circular bulge of a can of snuff in your back pocket, try not to pause in the middle of an interview to spit out the juice and by all means, don’t ask a clubbie to head down to the local convenience store to stock up.
No, MLB forbids and frowns on all of that.
But otherwise, go right ahead: Kill yourself if you want to.
That’s your right.
And finally, Silverman concludes:
Baseball survived when smoking was banned from the clubhouse.
Banning smokeless tobacco won’t kill it, either.